1000 Wells

Written on December 31st, 2006 by Shawn Anthony

Sept 18 2006: Today was the first day of CPE orientation. I met a great bunch of folk. The people I will be learning with seem wonderful. The 1st year residents are great too. The entire setting is wonderful. The director has really built a solid department, to say the least. I am so glad to be a part of the department. I expect to learn a lot.

That said, I must admit that I am more than a bit anxious about the whole thing. It just seems to be so much to take in at once. I am sure it is not so much, but my nervousness is amplifying it all. These people do such important work. Serving the sick, broken, and dying is about as high a calling as one can ever hear. I think that understanding has me more than a bit nervous now. All will be all right … I am in more than capable hands and have a fantastic leadership team.

Sept 20 2006: Today was a lot less anxious than Monday. The setting was a bit more familiar - though I did manage to get lost trying to find the CPE classroom. I am finally achieving a sense of orientation to my surroundings. I found the free parking garage (always a good thing). I know my fellow interns even better now. Things are starting to level out. We will see how it goes once I actually hit the floor and interact with patients and families.

Sept 25 2006: I learned a lot about decedent care today. I shadowed Richard for most of the day. Learning from real-time experience definitely helps me practically assimilate all of the classroom discussion. A properly facilitated combination of the two is simply awesome.

Today I watched a son watch his father die. The experience is one not simply explained. It is too big. It was too sacred. It was incredibly personal. Richard was a model I will not soon forget - if ever. He was a solid spiritual presence for the son. He was a non-anxious presence. He was a holy guide. He led the son in a religious service best described only with words like holy, sacred, righteous, and memorial. It was a thing of beauty. I was glad to be part of such a sacred event. I learned much.

I also learned that death in this setting is not something I should be afraid of, personally speaking. Richard was not afraid; he led. I am glad I had the opportunity to go through a death with a resident before I had to face one on my own. I would have been more afraid - perhaps even a bit disturbed - had I gone through a death/dying process all on my own. I have a great model from which I can now build and find my own voice and sacred leadership.

Sept 27 2006: I am ready to go … not much more to say. I will say that my anxiousness has gone from about an 8 to a 4 thanks to orientation and Richard’s modeling. We discussed our beginning and ending anxiety levels before concluding class today. It was wonderful to hear how everyone else was equally nervous last Monday. We are all in the same boat. I think that illustrates exactly where we will find our support while we work to be the spiritual support for others for the next 35 weeks or so. We will find it in the collegiality we share and will share with one another as we learn and grow together.

Oct. 3 2006: My first morning of clinical rounds began with a small and spontaneous group discussion regarding the terrible tragedy that occurred in Lancaster Co. One of the little Amish girls was flown to the hospital’s Trauma Unit where Richard was serving as the chaplain on call. It was a very emotional start of the morning, to say the least.

My rounds were difficult at first. I had to make sense of the print out I was given - specifically how to read the room numbers. I know I was told all of this in orientation, but it was born anew as I hit the floor solo. I also had to work very hard to gain a bit of physical orientation. I honestly had no idea where I was or what direction I was heading for a significant part of the morning. Once I familiarized myself with the layout of the floors and nursing stations my orientation began to materialize. I found my way around nicely after about an hour or so.

My discussions with patients were either very brief or very long. There seemed to be little room for something within the middle of the two. Most of the patients were willing to talk or postponed the visit. Some patients said they had just ingested a bit of medicine that would be making them feel ill shortly. I was invited back tomorrow. A different patient had just spent a significant amount of time with her home church minister. She was fulfilled from that visit and needed no more spiritual care.

My longer conversations were very edifying, for the patients and me. I had an extended conversation about WWII with two older men who shared a room. It was a great discussion and it allowed one of them to share - and perhaps relive - his glory days. A female patient talked to me for an extended time about her children. She really, really wished they lived closer. It too was a very edifying conversation for the both of us.

Overall, I think today was a success. It began difficult but ended with me feeling more comfortable about what I am doing here at the hospital. I think I will become even more comfortable - and consequently better prepared to be the spiritual presence I need to be for patients and families - as I continue to gain more time and experience on the floor.

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